Orders of the Day — Steel Industry and Road Haulage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

The right hon. Gentleman must not lead me into bad ways. I have made a most restrained speech, entirely free from abuse, and, therefore, it would be terrible, if, after using all this restraint, I were to follow the right hon. Gentleman into these realms of party abuse.

The point I was making was a fair one. The possibilities of the political scene were clearly in the mind of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, and if he took a risk it is not going to get him out of the blame of taking that risk to say, in the words of La Fontaine's description of his animal, that this animal is very wicked; when anybody attacks it, it defends itself. That is the kernel of the case which the right hon. Gentleman deployed today with so much eloquence.

Hon. Members opposite should consider with special care the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply on the question of the export trade. It is the classical difficulty, which has always been posed to Socialism in action, that, while it may conceivably be possible to enforce a Measure inside the country, no one has ever yet shown how it can be enforced against other countries with a private enterprise system, where there is a right to take big risks and apply private enterprise to meet the needs, the fashions and the tastes of customers.

My right hon. Friend's point was that we must not look merely at the present sellers' market, but at the potential competition from the United States and Japan. I listened with great care to the speech of the hon. Member for Rotherham, as I have to every speech that has been made, but I have heard no answer to that. Now that the hon. Member is back in the Chamber, I say again that it was a little below that high moral standard which we expect from him—and which we have seen on matters in which he has helped the whole House by giving them a picture in which, may I say to him through you, Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of the House has great confidence—it was a little below the approach that we expect of him, when he said that this was merely a matter of money and of finance. [HON. MEMBERS: "So it is."] After all, a Government that re-introduces, at the same time as these proposals, an Excess Profits Tax—